Florida’s Republican-led Legislature passed a bill on Thursday preventing Big Tech companies from kicking political candidates off their platforms.
Under the bill, social media companies can suspend a political candidate for 14 days and remove posts that violate their terms of service, but they cannot “permanently delete or ban” a candidate.
The state elections commission can fine companies $250,000 a day for banning statewide candidates and $25,000 a day for other candidates.
“What this bill is about is sending a loud message to Silicon Valley that they are not the absolute arbiters of truth,” Republican state Rep. John Snyder said Wednesday.
“What this bill does is send a loud message that the Constitution does not have an asterisk that says only certain speech is free and protected.”
The bill, which almost certainly will face a challenge in the courts, passed the Florida House by a vote of 77-38 and the state Senate by a vote of 23-17.
DeSantis called for action in February after Twitter and Facebook banned former President Donald Trump from using their platforms.
Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms have “changed from neutral platforms to enforcers of preferred narratives,” DeSantis said at the time, according to Florida Politics.
“Big Tech must be held accountable. Big Tech cannot be left unchecked,” Republican state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia said, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
“Social media companies and how big they are getting are indeed becoming a problem, and it’s becoming a First Amendment issue in the United States to the point where people from both political parties are starting to recognize just how powerful they are becoming,” said Ingoglia, who sponsored the House version of the bill.
Critics of the bill say social media companies are private actors protected by the First Amendment.
“This bill abandons conservative values, violates the First Amendment, and would force websites to host antisemitic, racist and hateful content,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel at the technology advocacy organization NetChoice, told the Times.
“There’s already a solution to deplatforming candidates on social media: Stop trafficking in conspiracy theories,” Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said, according to NBC News.
“That’s the solution. Stop pushing misinformation if you’re a candidate or an incumbent elected official. Stop retweeting QAnon. Stop lying on social media,” he added.
“Stop inciting insurrection against our republic. We’re hearing this bill because Twitter finally deplatformed former President Trump after five people were killed in an insurrection he incited at the U.S. Capitol.”
DeSantis has accused Big Tech companies of “political manipulation” and said that “when it comes to elections in Florida, Big Tech should stay out of it,” Florida Politics reported.
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